An appearance by culture secretary Nadine Dorries at a select committee hearing is becoming must-watch TV.
In November, the gaffe-prone Tory minister didn’t fully grasp how Channel 4 was funded – an important detail since she is in charge of selling-off the broadcaster.
And on Thursday, Dorries left viewers stunned as she responded to questions from the digital, culture, media and sport committee of MPs about online safety and public service broadcasters.
Specifically, she was quizzed about the government’s decision on Channel 4, the review of the BBC’s funding model and where Netflix and its subscription model fits in.
1. Sharing Netflix account: ‘Am I not supposed to do that?’
The culture secretary admitted she shares her Netflix password with four other households across the country.
Dorries said four other people, including her mother, have access to her account with the streaming service, in breach of its terms and conditions which say users must live together.
She described the current system for subscribers as “incredibly generous”.
She added: “My mum has access to my account, the kids do. I have Netflix but there are four other people who can use my Netflix account in different parts of the country.”
Laughing, she added: “Am I not supposed to do that?”
Her department’s permanent secretary, Sarah Healey, reportedly told her that password sharing was not allowed on the service.
2. Channel 4 ‘didn’t do themselves any favours’
Asked what she thinks about Channel 4 News, Dorries said she “gets on really well” with presenter Cathy Newman and had been asked on a number of times in the last two weeks, although she had declined.
But in an apparent reference to eyewitness reports that former anchor Jon Snow shouted “Fuck the Tories” while at Glastonbury Festival five years ago, she added: “I have been on Channel 4 News a number of times. It is edgy. I am not going to justify a news program whose anchor went out shouting obscenities about the Conservative Party.
“So they didn’t do themselves any favors sometimes on the news programs and I think that is probably as much as I want to say about that.”
Nadine Dorries saying the quiet bit out loud, here. In case you really thought privatizing C4 was all about helping it to compete with Netflix and Amazon.https://t.co/w3oA8PKk5P
— Kevin Schofield (@KevinASchofield) May 19, 2022
3. Fears profitable Channel 4 wants ‘hits the buffers’
Dorries said Channel 4’s pool of advertising budget had “reduced considerably”, justifying the decision to sell off the broadcaster, and that a platform such as Netflix would be another attractive prospect to advertisers.
She said: “If Channel 4 were to suffer as a result of decreased advertising, if all the advertising pool decided to go and spend it all on Netflix advertising … if Channel 4 hits the buffers it’s up to the government to pick that up , the taxpayer.”
But Channel 4 achieved record financial results last year – something the government could only dream of – while Netflix last month suffered its first subscriber loss in more than a decade, causing its shares to plunge 25% into extended trading.
Nadine Dorries says Channel 4 is being privatized because it’s a financial risk to the govt.
Channel 4’s 2021 revenue hit £1 billion – 19% more than 2020, with a £74 million pre-tax surplus & net cash reserves of £201 million.
The Govt, in contrast, has a £128 billion deficit. pic.twitter.com/yRzWbYUJBP
— Adam Schwarz (@AdamJSchwarz) May 19, 2022
Channel 4 has been publicly owned since its creation in 1982 by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, and is entirely funded by advertising.
4. ‘I think the figure was about 96%’
Dorries was asked by the SNP’s John Nicolson about her Channel 4 privatization consultation, and how many people supported the move
“I think the figure was about 96%,” she replied, fairly confidently.
But Nicolson corrected her afterwards, saying “the answer, of course, is 96% opposed to privatisation”.
In answer to my question #NadineDorries said she thought 96% of the 56,293 respondents in her public consultation supported privatisation. She was wrong. The opposite is the case – as I explained to her. 96% of those her department surveyed opposed privatization. https://t.co/ShEv0MafCH
— JOHN NICOLSON MP (@MrJohnNicolson) May 19, 2022
5. ‘They were actually actors’
In another attack on Channel 4, Dorries accused the broadcaster of hiring paid actors for a reality television show she appeared in 12 years ago.
Dorries was one of four new MPs to appear in Tower Block of Commons, where they all spent a week living on a different housing estate. At one stage, she apparently smuggled in a £50 note, which she claimed was intended to buy gifts for the children of her hosts.
During the hearing on Thursday, Dorries claimed the hosts were planted by the show’s producers, and that a “pharmacist or somebody that I went to see who prepared food” was also a paid actress.
Channel 4 is reportedly yet to respond.